12 Dec Maleny Community Gardens…we need YOUR help!
Maleny Community Garden… we need YOUR help!
Are you keen to get your hands dirty? Do you have a green thumb? Got some spare time on your hands? Want to give back to the community? Do you live in or around Maleny community on the Sunshine coast in Queensland? If you said yes to any of these then we have the perfect opportunity for you!
A couple of months ago I was approached by a lovely man with courageous aspirations to start up a community garden in the town of Maleny on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. With a common goal of uniting the community through health and emotional well-being, I happily made the scenic drive up to Maleny to meet with Alan and chat.
Maleny is a cute little town on the Blackhall Range overlooking the Sunshine Coast hinterland about 90km north of Brisbane. Maleny is a favourite getaway for city folk and is commonly known as an ‘alternative’ village. There are art galleries, organic produce and health food stores, cafes, alternative schools and medical treatment, organic farming, intentional communities and organic retreats. There are many co-operative enterprises in Maleny also.
Maleny is a delight to visit. My surprise was in the fact that to outside world Maleny exists as a very tight community unit with an emphasis on health and well-being… without a community garden!
We met over coffee and discussed the history to date of the ever-failing community garden project. Alan is sincere in his mission to create a place for the community to connect and engage in healthy practice. A little disheartened but ever so intent on seeing his vision through, Alan needs our help to make this dream come alive. We wondered down the main street of Maleny and stopped outside the Maleny Co-operative store and what a lovely store it is. On the back side of the store, in the middle of town, there it was, a beautifully overgrown patch of land just begging to be tendered. The land was once a children’s community garden and I was surprised to still see many plants and trees blossoming and fruiting. It was already an edible overgrown haven that just needs some working hands.
This is Alan’s story of the Maleny Community Garden project to date.
The Maleny Community Farm initiative grew from a single comment on a Facebook group. A local who was in rented accommodation was seeking a small plot of land on which they could grow some veges for their family.
The conversation spread from there to; how about others contribute so many families could benefit to, ultimately, why restrict it to families, single people ate food too, and why restrict it to just a few? Therefore, what was needed was a larger plot of land and the idea of a community farm was seeded.
A small group met at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre towards the end of 2014 and a steering group was formed with the intention of further developing the concept, finding a parcel of suitable land and starting a farm. Like many such initiatives there were some conflicting ideas within the group and we stumbled as many such groups probably do. We were not well defined, we had no parameters and we were to a large degree hampered by the lack of suitable land which met the requirements.
With the issue remaining that there seemed to be no suitable land, the initial wave of enthusiasm did not survive the setbacks and, while the idea did not die, the momentum was lost. In 2015 a promise of some materials to help with the farm was given by a local business but with no land on which to develp the farm it remained largely as an idea which existed on a Facebook page and in the minds of a couple of the original founders.
In 2016, with the collapse of the co-operative Upfront Club, the Maleny Co-operative Store which owned the master lease on the premises the Club had rented, began to re-think its direction. Part of this new direction was what to do with a small piece of land behind the Co-op in Bicentenary Lane. Previously used as the Maleny Children’s Garden, this piece of land was heavily overgrown and neglected since the previous operators had moved into different areas of endeavour.
At a meeting of the Co-op it was suggested that the garden be picked up by the Maleny Community Farm initiative and, with a name change to the Maleny Community Garden, be operated cooperatively by the community as a stepping stone towards the Community Farm concept. As a further benefit, other landholders may see the advantage of allowing the community the opportunity to expand the community garden concept to land which may be suitable for such development.
Community gardens have many benefits to communities beyond simply producing food. They can foster social inclusion, educate and bring harmony through cooperative effort. They also become places where people can gather, enjoy the beauty of nature and spend time simply being.
The idea is all very well however we need to start at the basics and that is where we need your help. Our first task in getting the Maleny community gardens up and running, is to get together a group of interested people who want to be involved in the development and planning, organising and structure of the project. We need resources. We also need people who have skills in agriculture and permaculture. Then of course we need enthusiastic hands on deck to develop, cultivate, nurture and maintain the gardens.
Alan is catching up with the Chamber of Commerce this week to gather support and is gaining momentum on the Community garden project.
Young, old, experience or not, this is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in something really worthwhile. It’s an opportunity for integration of all community members, for sharing and learning skills, for optimising community vitality and interaction and simply connecting to nature.
Are you a local in the Maleny area or know of anyone who is and might be interested in assisting the Maleny community in cultivating and nurturing a community garden and on a bigger scale a community at large, genetic biodiversity and environmental sustainability?
Please help Alan and the community of Maleny make this sustainable dream come alive.
Please share in your networks, let’s all play a part in making change at the grassroots.
Alan Neilsen manages the Maleny Community Farm- Food For Everyone group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/551410858338228/
Alan Neilsen can be contacted via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alanneilsen